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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Time Stands Still" At Shakespeare & Company

David Margulies is a writer whose plays offer a burning insight into contemporary relationships.   Many of his plays, like his Pulitzer Prize winning “Dinner With Friends,” tend to focus on couples struggling to hold on to a passion that once bonded them like glue.  

This is especially true in his 2010 play “Time Stands Still,” a work about two combat journalists who have been covering the Iraq war.  Not only is the intimate relationship they shared for eight years burning out, so is their passion for putting their lives in danger.  In “Time Stands Still” people not only question their love, but their ideals as well.  

This makes the play, which is at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass through October 13, a work about life choices.  It makes the audience question whether the satisfaction a person gets from bouncing a child on their knee is less worthy than is the dangerous job reporting on battles that destroy lives and cultures?  Indeed, you could make the case that loving a child can change a life, where a story or a photo of a child maimed by a bomb changes nothing.

Sarah Goodman is a famous photojournalist who just escaped death by a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq.  She is in a leg brace and her face is scarred as she returns to their Brooklyn apartment to recover from the injuries that left her in a coma for two months.   Not only does she suffer physically, she mourns the death of her trusted Iraqi guide and translator who was killed in the explosion.

Her lover and caregiver is James Dodd, a journalist, who is less famous than Sarah, but just as dedicated to his work.  He,too, is injured, but his wounds are mental and less visible.  However, they are equally damaging and shape his view on war and the need to live a life free from danger.

They are visited by an old friend, Richard Ehrlich.  The older man is an editor for a publication that supports the work of the free-lance journalists.   He’s been a friend and a mentor to Sarah and years ago the two were lovers.   He shows up at their apartment with a girlfriend decades younger than himself.   

If Sarah and James are world-weary, Mandy is world-innocent.  She’s an event-planner who comes from a privileged family. The fact that Richard chooses this seemingly shallow woman as the person whom he wants to marry and raise a family is jarring to the younger couple for whom life is a day-to-day gamble.

Clearly this is a play rich in complex relationships.  Director Nicole Ricciardi guides the performers so that each respects the complicated life choices the characters face.   The problems that the characters must deal with are not everyday issues, but Ricciardi helps the audience relate to each on a personal level.

Tamara Hickey is a brittle but vulnerable Sarah, a woman who is in an emotional dilemma about almost everything in her life.  Hickey defines the frustration of a woman who loves to be in charge, yet finds her life outside her control.

David Joseph plays James as more passive and less driven than Sarah.  He is a man who begins not only to question his role in their relationship, but worries about his work creating a difference in the world.   He doesn’t know what he deserves from life, but he understands he doesn’t have it.

Though Sarah and James drive the play, it is Richard and Mandy who give it life.   They are a couple who seek joy and realize that not every life adventure has to be fraught with danger.  Having a child with one parent well past middle age is a risk, but an affirmation of life.   Both Mark Zeisler as Richard and Caroline Calkins as Mandy find in their characters a joy of living that provides the play with some light and optimism.

With “Time Stands Still”, playwright Margulies raises a lot of questions that are not answered because they have no answers.  It’s like falling in and out of love – sometimes things just happen.      

“Time Stands Still” is at Shakespeare & Company through October 13.  For tickets and schedule information call 413-637-3353 or go to shakespeare.org

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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